Change of Ownership of a vehicle between family members

What is a change of ownership between family members? 

When we change the title of a car, we are notifying the DMV that the vehicle has legally changed ownership. A change of ownership of a vehicle is done when you give away, inherit or sell your car. With this transfer, the new owner will be responsible for said vehicle.

How to Change Ownership of a Car

If the change is for sale, you must follow these steps:

  1. The seller and the buyer or the financier (if any) must sign the car’s certificate of title.
  2. Locate the title transfer application on the back of the car’s certificate of title. The buyer must complete and sign this application. 
  3. Deliver to the DMV the title of the signed car along with the documents that are required, as the case may be.
  4. Wait for the new car title certificate that the DMV will issue to the new owner. 

Change of Car Title between Relatives

If the change of ownership of a car will be done with a relative, there are some differences in the process that you should know. We could say that there are two types of procedures for changing or transferring the title of a car: the regular or for sale and the one that is carried out between relatives. 

Who can make the change of title between relatives?

It can be said that a family transfer is made when the property is transferred to a:

  • Wife or husband.
  • Mother or father.
  • Daughter or son.
  • Grandmother or Grandfather
  • Granddaughter or Grandson
  • Sister or Brother, etc.

What makes the change of title between relatives different?

There are three main differences between a regular title change and a family title change: 

  1. On a regular transfer, a use tax will be due based on the purchase price of the vehicle. In a change of car title between family members, this tax is exempt, unless they are brothers and both are of legal age. 
  2. In most cases, doing a car title change requires a smog check before the vehicle can be registered to the new owner. In a change of title between family members, a smog check is not necessary if the mandatory check every two years has already been carried out and is still valid.
  3. A regular transfer requires the vehicle’s value to be restored to determine the applicable vehicle license fee.

The license fee is based on the purchase price or the current market value of the vehicle, the change of title between relatives is exempt from the reclassification of the value of the vehicle.

Requirements to make a change of ownership of a vehicle between family members

You will need to gather certain documentation that DMV will ask for such as:

  • The California Certificate of Title properly signed on Line 1 by the registered owner. The new owner must complete the New Owner of Record section on the back of the title and sign it.
  • A Statement of Facts (REG 256 Rev. 1/96 or later) for the use tax and smog exemption, if applicable.
  • The transfer fee.
  • Odometer disclosure for vehicles less than 10 years old.

They may also charge you additional fees such as registration fees.

Disclaimer Notice

”Notice of Release of Liability” in English (REG 138) must be completed and sent by the seller to the DMV. The seller is legally required to report the transfer of the car to the DMV within five days of the date of sale.

How much does a car transfer between family members cost?

Transfer Fee

The DMV charges a $15 fee for the transfer. If this is not paid within the next 30 days after the day the transfer was made, a penalty fee of $10 will be added.

Registration Renewal Fee

Registration renewal fees for said car may be pending and will need to be paid. If the car registration has expired and the car has not been moved to a Planned Non-Operation (Non-op or PNO) status, you will be charged for the past due fees and penalties.

Smog Check

California law requires inspection and certification of most vehicles every two years. If you are renewing your registration during a biennial period, a smog waiver will not apply to the transfer of the family member.

The fees to be paid will be determined by the DMV upon submitting the application.

Can a Family Transfer of Title be made without paying the Registration Renewal Fees?

If the vehicle is in Non-Operational status on DMV registration and the transfer fee is deposited before the Non-Operational status expiration date, the transfer may be made without paying Registration Renewal Fees.

Smog Check

California law requires inspection and certification of most vehicles every two years after registration renewal. It is known as ”The Biennial Smog Requirement” which translates to Biennial Smog Requirement (every two years). If you are renewing your registration within a Biennial period, a smog waiver may not be applied when transferring title between family members.

Making a regular car title change or between family members can seem confusing, maybe you don’t want to fill out the form incorrectly and waste time requesting another one. Our clients comment that carrying out this process through us has helped them save a lot of time. 

Visit our branches in California


  • 1310 Chamberlain Ave.
  • Suite A
  • Bakersfield, CA 93305
  • (661)270-2500